Friday, November 11, 2016

BAIC INTERNATIONAL AND AMBER DUAL SDN BHD unveil the D20 Hatchback and EV200 Electric Car

A new passenger vehicle player is in town. BAIC International and local partner Amber Dual Sdn Bhd have unveiled two new cars at the 2016 Malaysia Autoshow. The BAIC EV200 – the first Malaysian Assembled / Manufactured Electric Vehicle for homologation and research purposes and production ready BAIC D20 - the first Right-Hand Drive variant of the BAIC D20 compact car which will be sold early 2017.

The BAIC EV200 is a fully electric vehicle based on the BAIC D20 hatchback and sedan variant. It has a range of 200km and a top speed of 125kmh. Fully electric and it has two charging ports - one a fast charger located up front behind the front grille logo and a normal charger where the fuel filler cap is supposed to be. The EV200 is the first right hand drive EV produced by BAIC and is the first EV to be made/assembled here (in Gurun, Kedah). It is currently being homologated for local production with road tests being carried out. 

The small batch of vehicles assembled will undergo testing and the first target market for the car would be for the hire car market and for limited range markets like for strictly urban use or for an island. Build quality for the show car isn't that up to scratch as yet (panel gaps are huge for a modern car) and the battery pack sits under the floor (beneath the front seats to the rear floor) making the area too shallow for your feet making the sitting position at the rear slightly awkward. Whilst the location of the battery is good for safety, people who are of average height would find it a bit uncomfortable due to the low cushion and the high floor. Needs some extra packaging work.

The outside looks very Toyota-like even though the platform is actually derived from a first generation Smart ForFour. The inside is somehow close to what a Toyota derivative would look like. Plastics are entry level hard stuff of course, as it is a B-segment car. Of course, familiarity is a good thing especially if the car is a new brand in the market.

On a personal note, the EV200 needs more legroom at the rear and the readiness of the market for such a car. Not many people are ready to put money down for a fully electric car. Amber Dual are aware of this and have said that this car is purely for homologation and for R&D. Only when they feel the people are ready and there are enough infrastructure like charging points would this EV200 enter into full production locally. 

As for infrastructure and other EV details, the company is in communication with GreenTech, the company entrusted to pushing the electric vehicle agenda in Malaysia. Anyway, I believe that any fully electric car would need a few more years before people receive them with open arms. I also think by then, battery costs would be lower. This would make ownership an interesting proposition.

BAIC and local partners Amber Dual also unveiled their EEV ready D20 hatchback (above). This car is actually more important than the EV200 as it is going to be BAIC's volume seller here in Malaysia. Amber Dual hope to launch the car officially by the first quarter of 2017 and are targeting sales of up to 500 units per month. The company also states that they have been given the rights to assemble and market all right hand drive models especially in the ASEAN region.

This 1.3liter (100hp/128Nm) and 1.5liter (113hp/148Nm)  5 door hatch is a B segment hatch (yes, both will be sold in Malaysia with a manual or a 4 speed automatic transmission). It looks like a shrunken Mercedes-Benz B class hatchback. And being a China manufacturer, they are the kings at making copies. This looks decent enough without actually looking like an exact clone.  I suppose this is because Mercedes is a partner in BAIC and the D20 is based on the first generation (2004-2006) Smart ForFour platform. The Smart ForFour was designed and built by Mercedes-Benz and was a joint venture with Mitsubishi which used the platform as a Mitsubishi Colt. This also means that the car should drive decently well. 

The interior looks like it came from a Toyota derivative. It feels and looks decent enough albeit a little plain and austere. The materials used are the usual hard plastics common in small hatchbacks or sedans. The switchgear feel robust although lacking in feel and touch quality. But it is built to a price so no real complaint here. Hopefully with the EEV incentive the price will be under RM55,000 (like the other China car, Haval M4). 

Expect the D20 to be officially launched early next year. What will happen is that Malaysians would have more choice of affordable vehicles aside from the two national brands and one or two entry level cars from Korea (Kia Picanto, Hyundai i10) and the Haval M4 crossover. China car or not it brings more choice to the table and that's always a good thing!


10 NOVEMBER 2016


KUALA LUMPUR, 10 November 2016 – Chinese automaker BAIC INTL and its Malaysian partner Amber Dual Sdn Bhd launched two historic firsts today - the BAIC EV200 – the first Malaysian Manufactured Electric Vehicle and BAIC D20 - the first Right-Hand Drive D20 vehicle in the world.

Malaysia’s Minister of International Trade and Industry Malaysia, YB Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed launched the two models at the BAIC Pavilion during the Malaysia Auto Show 2016 in the Mines International Exhibition Centre (MIECC), Kuala Lumpur.

BAIC or Beijing Auto International Cooperation is among the world’s leading electric vehicle producers and has teamed up with Amber Dual Sdn Bhd to make Malaysia the hub for its electric cars for the Southeast Asian market.

The D20 model is a delightfully compact car with a distinctive design. The D20 produced for Malaysia is the first in the world to offer right-hand drive.

The EV200 model will be the first made-in-Malaysia electric vehicle, bringing in the proven technology and experience of BAIC in electric vehicle design and manufacturing. 

In addition, there is also the AD 009 van to be introduced, a comfortable 16-seater carrier that is suitable for both leisure and business. The AD 009 is not (yet) an electric vehicle, and runs on petrol or diesel.

The launching of these vehicles in Malaysia highlights the confidence in the high potential market for electric vehicles in Malaysia and generally in Southeast Asia as Malaysia will be the hub of the brand’s manufacturing and distribution in this economically dynamic and growing region. This effort takes good advantage of the increasingly educated population’s awareness of green technology and the need to take care of the environment.

It is both fortunate yet well planned that this momentous launch takes advantage of the prestigious Malaysian Auto Show 2016 at the MINES in Kuala Lumpur.

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